PETALING JAYA: With youths making up a sizeable portion of Malaysia’s population, their contributions can play a significant role in developing communities and the nation.

But for Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, the fight to make schools a safer place has not been smooth sailing these past few months.

“It’s been super hard and I can tell you that all of the things I went through really shows how hard it is to make a change in Malaysia,” she told FMT.

“I’m passionate about it and I would never want another student to be put into the same position as me.”

Since posting a TikTok video in which she spoke about her teacher making inappropriate rape jokes in class, the 17-year-old has received a rape threat from a male classmate, been allegedly ridiculed by her school principal on Facebook, and was hit with a RM1 million defamation suit filed by the teacher involved.

In response, Ain and her parents have decided to file a RM5 million countersuit, claiming intentional infliction of emotional stress by insulting her modesty.

Disappointed at those in power for failing to fulfil their responsibilities in protecting students, Ain said the country lacked a safe environment for young people to express themselves.

She wanted to see more youths being included in policy-making and nation building conversations.

“In Malaysia, we don’t provide the space for youths to have their opinions heard,” she said, adding that the ones brave enough to talk were often punished.

“I will continue speaking up because right now, if I can take a tiny step, I hope that in the future other youths can take bigger steps and make an impact. We need a starting point and for me, I start with myself.”

Nurul Rifayah Muhammad Iqbal, 18, was one of the 2020 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates who openly questioned the government’s decision for all major examinations to go ahead despite the high number of Covid-19 cases earlier this year.

Over the last eight months, the vocal teenager has also gone on to become a central executive committee member of political party MUDA and a strong proponent of the Undi18 movement.

“I started getting involved in politics when I was 16 because I realised that no matter what happens, politics is the only way to be part of the decision-making process and to bring change,” she said.

Nurul Rifayah is also one of the 18 youths involved in suing the prime minister, the federal government and the Election Commission for postponing the automatic registration of those aged 18 to 20 as voters.

Although she wishes to pursue a law degree, her ongoing involvement in politics has led to several rejected applications from public universities in the country.

“If they don’t want to accept me for my results, I can accept that, but when they don’t want to take me in because I am a risk, it upsets me.”

Being one of the youngest people in the political sphere can be intimidating, but Nurul Rifayah believes it is important to push for amendments to the education system and to be a voice for Malaysian students.

“Sooner or later, we will be in decision-making positions. Even if we aren’t part of it, we will be able to vote for the older people’s positions,” she said.

“Everyone deserves a right to education. I will not be the last youth activist to be punished, we don’t know who will be next. If they continue to be like this, no one will respect them and education in our country will not go far.”